Spanning Sync

I’ve been using Spanning Sync ( to sync calendars and contacts between Google and my Mac, and thought you’d like it too. After a 15-day free trial period, Spanning Sync usually costs $25/year, but you can save $5 by using my discount code if you decide to buy it:


Also, if you use my code I’ll get a $5 referral fee from Spanning Sync. Once you’re a subscriber you’ll get a code of your own so you can make money every time one of your other friends subscribes to Spanning Sync. Pretty cool!

Seriously, it’s great. I have my address book synchronised to my own gmail account and my Lorraine’s gmail synchronises to her iMac and the family address book gets shared and synchronised automatically between the iMac and my MacBook

New computer – the saga continues

Can anyone confirm whether the Q9450 CPU is compatable with an Asus P5Q Pro Turbo Intel P45 motherboard?

There is a bit of a story behind my question. First of all, I bought a system as documented here:

Looking for advice on platform

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 LGA775 ‘Yorkfield’ 2.66GHz 12MB-cache (1333FSB) Processor – OEM
  • Asus P5Q Pro Turbo Intel P45 (Socket 775) PCI-Express DDR2 Motherboard
  • Kingston HyperX 8GB (4x2GB) DDR2 8500C5 1066MHz Dual Channel

The system wouldn’t boot and I asked for some help on SPCR with that, which of course I got (I love this place!)

System won’t boot

I eventually RMAed the motherboard back and, after Overclockers having had it for 12 DAYS, they refunded me. So I called to find out why a refund and not a replacement, to which they replied that there may be an incompatibility issue with the motherboard and CPU. It seemed unlikely, but possible, so I ordered another motherboard, one which they assured me would work, a Gigabyte GA-X48-DS5.

The new motherboard arrived yesterday and the problem was exactly the same as with the first board: no post. So I have now RMAed the CPU back.

Meanwhile, I requested a refund on the shipping I had to pay to return the motherboard and was told that they do not pay refunds for incompatibility issues. Now, had the second motherboard solved all my problems, I could have believed that the initial problem was one of incompatibility. But it didn’t so I am now very dubious as to whether that really was the cause of the problem.

If I get another CPU and find that it works, I’m sure I would have a very good case for arguing that the initial problem was NOT one of incompatiblity and therefore I should be able to demand a refund on the shipping costs.

But I thought I would ask here as I’m sure there must be someone out there in SPCR land that knows whether that Asus P5Q Pro Turbo board is incompatible with the Q9450 CPU. Anyone know?

New computer ordered!

We finally got some good news today. Turns out we earned so little last year that the UK government paid us too little in tax credits. So we got a backdated lump sum today, clearing my overdraft and enabling us to pay of the Luxembourg tax man and get the Luxembourg chapter finally closed! It’s a happy, happy day!

It also meant that I don’t have to wait until my eBay campaign is completed before I can order my new computer parts!

I have been reviewing parts for a couple of weeks now, thinking I’d go for the new Intel i7 chip, currently on sale at my preferred vendor for £210 (it’s actually gone up since last week). I decided that I didn’t need that kind of power, nor indeed did I want that kind of thermal output. I like quiet computers, which means I prefer lower output from the chip so that it’s easier to cool. So I’ve gone for a Core 2 Quad, the Q9450 OEM for £148.99. Here’s the complete order:

  • £129.56 x 1 – Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 LGA775 ‘Yorkfield’ 2.66GHz 12MB-cache (1333FSB) Processor – OEM
  • £91.30 x 1 – Kingston SSDNow V Series 64GB 2.5″ SATA-II Solid State Hard Drive Kit (SNV125-S2BD64GB)
  • £78.25 x 1 – Asus P5Q Pro Turbo Intel P45 (Socket 775) PCI-Express DDR2 Motherboard
  • £36.51 x 2 – Kingston HyperX 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2 8500C5 1066MHz Dual Channel (KHX8500D2K24G)

I post this mainly for myself to refer back to, as I know I will want to at some time.

Main things to note are:

a) 8 gigs of RAM. The original order was going to be for 4, but since I’m still planning to sell the Digitech Jam Man and possibly the Mama Bear, I’m celebrating the windfall with 8

b) Solid state hard drive. This is another indulgence that I wouldn’t ordinarily have gone for. I’m told that an SSD will really make things snappy, and, if it’s snappy enough that the boot time is increased to what I hope it will be, there is a very good chance that I’ll shut down the computer when I’m not using it, thus reducing our electricity bills and helping to save the planet 🙂

The only thing I neglected was a 1TB or 1.5TB drive. This would allow me to take out the three storage drives that I use and replace them with one. Again, reducing the power bill and making files easier to find (no more ‘oh what drive is that on again?’ ) So I may just order one with free shipping on Amazon. It makes sense.

Nerd on site?

I’ve been troubleshooting PCs for years now, starting from Windows 98. I am now wondering whether there is any opportunity of making some extra income from offering repair and upgrade services on our little island. That got me wondering about Nerds on Site, a sponsor of Security Now! it could be a good thing, although I tend to think that, being island based, it may not be the proper solution for me personally. If I were in Glasgow, maybe.

Nerds on site aside, I do think that I have something to offer in this space. I am up-to-date with tech in the PC realm at least and can usually diagnose hardware and Windows issues, offer back-up solutions and set up broadband connections / email etc.

Could be a good way of bringing in supplemental income. Only trouble is that there is a guy doing that sort of thing already and he’s a decent enough bloke. Ah well, a bit of competition never hurt anybody, right?


Broken computer and related eBay campaign

My main PC broke. I bought a used processor on eBay to see if it was that that was broken, but it wasn’t. So I had to take it to a guy who could test it. The dilemma with that is that, if I am to start a computer repairs business, what am I doing taking my own computer to a guy? Well, the guy has a post board (at least I think that’s what he called it), which is a diagnostics board that plugs into a PCI slot on a motherboard and can be used to diagnose motherboard issues. Apparently this thing costs in the region of 1000 pounds. He was also

in the process or taking a chip off a motherboard to replace it and so on, using a custom made tool. That’s way beyond the sort of thing I’ll be offering.

Anyway, I spent some time in the attic on Saturday looking out stuff to sell to fund a new motherboard, CPU and RAM combo. So far I’ve got an analogue BT phone, my old JVC car stereo, a Timbuktoo laptop bag, a Digitech JamMan (that I lusted after for so long and then never used), the processor I just bought, the processor pulled from the broken motherboard, 2 gigs of RAM, a bag of TomTom accessories (that I’d lost and bought another set and so now I have two), a D-Tar Mama Bear (guitar preamp and DSP) and that’s about it. I need to get together between 300 to 500 quid, depending on whether I go i7 with 6 gigs of RAM or Core2Quad with 4. I’d actually quite like to Mama Bear, but we’ll see.

My eBay username is thecamser, for anyone who may be interested in taking a look.



The most important ingredient when fixing computers is patience. It’s a while since I’ve gone through a repair cycle, but this is a biggie. A friend’s Dell wasn’t booting so I’ve brought it home. I did manage to diagnose it as a hard-drive issue, so that was good. Diagnosing can be the most difficult thing when one does not have the requisite spare parts.

Thankfully the data is still on the hard drive, so first things first, I thought I would back up the data to my own computer. Only then did I discover that the problem of low disk space that I’ve been shoving to the back of my mind needs to be addressed now or I won’t be backing up anything! I had a new drive that I bought over a year ago for this very purpose, so I started cloning my data drive to the new, larger-capicity drive. I set it running at 10pm last night and was dismayed to find that it had reached only 75% by 10 this morning. Patience.

So I was ready to dive in to the problem drive. I had left a disk maintainance utility (SpinRite) running over night and it had found no errors. Only I didn’t really want to start messing around with the failed drive until it was backed up. That meant waiting until my disk clone was done.

As I write, that is now complete and I am now creating a disk image of the failed drive on to my new larger-capacity drive. I will then clone the failed drive to another hard disk of the same capacity and see if I can get that to boot. We’re talking probably about an hour for the image creation and another for the disk clone. If the replacement hard disk doesn’t boot, I’ll have to use the Dell recovery disk and start rebuilding the OS and then migrate the data back from the image.

I’m going to need buckets of patience!

The iMac is here!

I was waiting for a long time for the new iMacs to be released. That happened, but it seemed soon that Leopard would come out (the new operating system) so it would have been daft to jump into Tiger when I could wait just a little longer for Leopard. That happened a few weeks ago and I placed my order: a 24″ iMac 2.8 Extreme Edition. It arrived last Friday (took about six bloomin’ weeks mind) and came with Tiger installed but a Leopard disk. Just how long does it take for Apple to get Leopard pre-installed boxes shipping!

Anyway, it came and it’s nice. I upgraded to Leopard immediately and it’s now sat in our living room. Lorraine is finding the learning curve to be rather steep and I remember that from when I switched a year ago. Well, I say switched. What I really mean is that I bought a MacBook, installed Windows on it (in Parallels) and used OS X for pretty much nothing other than web browsing on Firefox (which I use on the PC also). So I never really got over the learning curve either.

It’s little things like getting used to using Command instead of Ctrl. The fact that many sites talk about an option key and they really mean the alt key. I try to delete stuff in the Finder using guess which key? Yep, the one that says “delete” on it, but it doesn’t work. I’m a keyboard shortcut junkie so it makes it harder for me I guess. Lorraine is more of a mouse gal and I thought it would be a little easier for her, but she’s having trouble too. Why does maximise not , well, maximise? I have to get used to bringing the cursor up to the top left instead of the top right for the close (although I’m getting used to Command W and Command Q now).

My wife’s main production tool is Word. It came with a nagware trial version of Mac:Word 2004. It’s troublesome. You can’t create a new folder in the Save As… dialogue box – that’s mind-numbingly frustrating. The non-breaking space and space characters are so small as to be virtually invisible (also VERY frustrating).

And iPhoto will NOT import my photos. Seemingly it’s a bug caused by the fact that my jpgs and raw files are all tagged with Lightroom. So the “it just works” thing failed on day 1 of having the iMac. And there’s no work around. How about that ladies and gentlemen?

So, all in all, it has been rather a negative experience. I want so much to like OS X. All those people can’t be wrong, surely? You know, the Mac evangelists. I do get sick of Windows XP trouble, but I’ve been using it for so long now that I pretty much can fix most things or at least know how to Google and where to look to troubleshoot. I’m rather in the dark with OS X though. However, I shall persevere (although saying that I’m actually sat in front of the iMac right now but typing this in a Remote Desktop window hooked up to my XP PC — hmmmm….)

My first computers

I just found from now defunct podcast DL.TV and what a great resource it is! I’ve been looking through my early computers and having fun looking at the specs.

My first computer was the Commodore Vic-20. Its release date was 1981 so I would guess that it was probably Christmas 1981 or 1982 that I got it (so I would be 10 or 11). I recall it fondly. One of my favourite games on it was a text-based adventure game whose name I cannot recall unfortunately. I also remember some maze game where a big letter M would chase you and I never ever did complete it (although I got close!) I can still remember the music. I also had Jetpack for it and remember discovering that the Spectrum version had 8 levels while the Vic-20 version had only 4. Ripped off!

My next computer was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48. The release date for this was 1983 so I probably got it Christmas 83 or 84. I would be 12 or 13. A few of my mates had one of these before I got mine and it was way better than the Vic-20 for games. Monty Mole rocked. Of course there was Manic Miner and Lunar Jetman. Avalon and Everyone’s a Wally. Rambo. I spent many hours on this computer. It was even hackable! There was some Randomize Usr string that one could enter when Manic Miner was loaded and then access any level. There was also two lines of code that you could enter into the load screen to make some pretty spirograph-esque images load. I used to have fun doing that on the display models in Dixons. I also bought Crash magazine every month back then, a mag dedicated to Spectrum games. It was really very good. I also remember the arguments we would have with Commodore 64 owners about which was best. How we could defend a 48k computer with rubber keys over a full keyboard 64k computer is anyone’s guess, but the games did seem better on the Spectrum and that’s what it was all about at the end of the day.

My next computer was the Commodore Amiga 500+. The release date was 1991 and 1992 for the Amiga 600 so it must’ve been in 1991. I remember playing Batman on someone’s Amiga 500 when I was in the Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital in Woolwich and loving it so, when I got out of hospital, what better way to convalesce than to get an Amiga. We had many hours of fun on this computer, including mammoth sessions on Legend round at a mate’s house. That was one good game to be sure, but the constant disk-swapping was a pain. I ended up selling the computer to the mate at whose house those Legend sessions were, well, legendary.

And that was about it until I got my Windows 2000 Pentium 4 with 512MB of RDRAM from Evesham Computers back in 2000.

It’s strange actually that I didn’t end up working in the IT industry as I think I am better suited to that than to the languages industry. I used to spend hours over the summer holidays copying BASIC code from magazines into my Spectrum to make games work (sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t). In my 1st year at uni I did a module on Information Processing, so learned Claris Works on some Mac or other (don’t recall which model exactly but it was in 1993/94), did some UNIX and even did some essays and research on the history and philosophy of computing. Slide rules anyone?

The army kind of figured out I was good at languages and so I ended up following that path, but they didn’t figure out that I’m an introvert and have a deep fear of speaking foreign languages (a big reason for our impending departure from Luxembourg). Oh well, I’m soon to be a sub-postmaster anyway so it’s bye bye Russian and French.

I actually started an Open University course in Object-Oriented Programming back in 2001 but I couldn’t keep up with the coursework and packed it in. I guess I’ll always be a computer enthusiast but never much more than that I guess. Maybe in the next life!

Got the 30″ Dell

It must be about six months since our downstairs monitor bit the dust. Since then we’ve been using my old 17.1″ Taxan LCD which has a dying backlight and wishy washy colours and it’s been pretty darned awful. Forget photo editing, it wasn’t even worth viewing photos on that screen, never mind editing them. I had it in my mind that Apple would upgrade the cinema displays soon, hoping for DHCP compatibility and an inbuilt iSight. I waited and waited, then waited some more, until finally my resolve broke. I’m going through a big photo editing phase right now and am also, as of last Monday, home all day with the kids so I can’t really sneak off upstairs to the good monitor. So I ordered the Dell and it arrived today (Thursday). I now have the Samsung 213T downstairs and what a difference.

But how about that Dell. It really is big and image editing on it is rather a treat. I’m having a bit of trouble calibrating it so hopefully I’ll be able to borrow some calibration hardware from the IT department at Lorraine’s work.

So now all I’m waiting on is Leopard so I can jump on one of those iMac 24s. Then I can have the 30 and Samsung 21 on my desk together up stairs and really get down to work!

New iMac – WooHoo!

I’m just watching the live feed on Gizmodo – the new iMac is out! I’ve been waiting for this. No 30″, which is a bit disappointing, but no more 17 either. There are two 20s, one at $1199 and a faster one at $1499. The 24″ is $1799. There could be a 24″ in the very near future for me! 🙂